Cycle//Vuelta a España
by Marcus Leach
Stage seventeen of the Vuelta a España saw the sprinters battle it out once again, with Germany's John Degenkolb claiming the honours, his fourth stage win of the this year's race.
There were no changes at the top of the race in the general classification with Alberto Contador retaining the leader's jersey, and with only one serious mountain stage to go looking odds on to claim another Vuelta crown.
Degenkolb narrowly beat Australian Michael Matthews on the 190.7km leg, with Great Britain's Chris Froome finishing in with the pack to remain third overall behind Contador and Alejandro Valverde.
Tinkoff-Saxo's sport director Steven de Jongh was happy with the outcome of the stage and is confident Contador can hold onto the lead.
"It was a good day for us. In the beginning we took control and let a small group go away," he said. "Then, immediately, the sprinter teams such as Giant-Shimano started to work and as a result we didn’t keep the control throughout the day, saving a bit of energy. After that, Omega Pharma - Quick-Step and Orica-GreenEdge started to pull. The group came back in the final kilometre and we just protected Alberto."
The race resumed after a rest day on Tuesday and Froome suffered a setback with Team Sky team-mate Christian Knees, of Germany, having to withdraw because of illness.
Contador, 31, is aiming for a third Tour of Spain crown.
"The feelings have been pretty good and, well, it's one day fewer," he said. "Thursday's stage is completely different and we have to get the motor running at top speed again.
"Let's hope the legs are working well and we can keep an eye on those at the front and make sure the day goes smoothly.
"I think they (the remaining four stages) are all important, maybe the one on Thursday will be a bit different but all the days are important now."
Stage Seventeen Result
1. John Degenkolb 4hrs 26mins 07secs
2. Michael Matthews
3. Fabian Cancellara
4. Jasper Stuyven
5. Roberto Ferrari
6. Koldo Fernandez
7. Geoffrey Soupe
8. Danilo Wyss
9. Damiano Caruso
10. Vicente Reynes
1. Alberto Contador 67hrs 51mins 07secs
2. Alejandro Valverde +1min 36secs
3. Chris Froome +1min 39secs
4. Joaquim Rodriguez +2mins 29secs
5. Fabio Aru +3mins 38secs
6. Daniel Martin +6mins 17secs
7. Robert Gesink +6mins 43secs
8. Samuel Sanchez +6mins 55secs
9. Warren Barguil +8mins 37secs
10. Damiano Caruso +9mins 10secs